Written by Malia Rulon Herman, Gannett News Service --
The House voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass legislation from Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey that aims to crack down on countries that harbor children abducted by a parent.
The bill was named for David Goldman of Tinton Falls, whose five-year fight to get his son back from Brazil drew international attention. Goldman’s son Sean was returned to him on Christmas Eve almost exactly four years ago.
“Today, we have hope,” Goldman told reporters shortly before the vote. “Our abducted American children need to be returned.”
Smith’s bill passed 398-0, an impressive show of bipartisan support that Smith says should help the bill attract support in the Senate.
The bill would give the U.S. government authority to pursue sanctions — from a public rebuke to trade and credit suspensions — on countries that refuse to turn over abducted children.
Under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, parents are barred from fleeing to another country with their children until a court determines custody. Some 81 countries are signatories, but the treaty is rarely enforced.
Smith, a Republican, said he hopes his legislation creates a system in which countries are held accountable for failing to comply with court orders to return abducted children.
He was joined by Goldman and six other families who are struggling to get their children back from other countries. In an hour-long news conference that evoked tears from several present, the parents took turns telling their stories.
Bindu Philips of Plainsboro, N.J., said she was never apart from her children for more than a day until five years ago, when her ex-husband took them to India and blocked all efforts to have them returned.
“I have done everything I can in this nightmarish situation, and I will never give up,” she said..
Barton Hermer of Plano, Texas, told of struggling to get his daughter back from her mother, who fled with her to the United Kingdom.
“I plead to you, to the media, to the government, please stand behind us,” he said, choking back tears. “These are our most precious citizens and they need to be brought home immediately.”
Goldman’s son, Sean, remains the only U.S. child to be returned under the Hague treaty. He was 9 when he came home in 2009 and is now 13.
After taking Sean, who was then 4, to Brazil, Goldman’s wife remarried, then died in childbirth. Her death sparked an international custody battle that ended with Sean’s emotional return to the U.S..
Goldman has remarried and is raising Sean along with his wife’s two young sons. He described Sean as a well-adjusted, 5-foot-10-inch eighth grader who loves to play basketball and go fishing, and has an incredibly messy room.
“He made the basketball travel team and also the school team,” Goldman gushed, flipping through photos of Sean on his phone before flashing one of Sean holding a fish he caught on a recent deep-sea fishing trip.
Goldman said their years apart couldn’t break the bond between him and his son, but there are lingering effects. He said he’s still in debt after years of legal battles. He described Sean as “wise beyond his years.”
“He knows what happened,” Goldman said. “We talk about it.”
As Christmas Eve approaches, the fourth anniversary of Sean’s return, Goldman said he’s reminded of how lucky he is.
Originally Dec. 12, 2013 published at: